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Towards an integrated approach for sustainability labelling and certification

Campins Eritja

elni Review 2005, Issue 2,  pp. 13-16.

A European research project (EVG1-CT2000-00031) was started in 2000 with the aim of providing the European Union with an analytical framework for assessing ecologically, economically and socially responsible labelling and certification schemes, in order to present a conceptual and theoretical elaboration of the key issues in the international and supranational legal context. 
The present short paper is solely intended to present the main results of such a project, which consisted of five steps: a) Interdisciplinary framework for analysis; b) Analysis of the international legal, institutional and organisational framework for sustainability labelling and certification schemes; c) Global inventory of sustainability labelling and certification schemes, d) Six case studies focusing on specific schemes; e) The development of an analytical framework for assessing sustainability labelling and certification schemes.
Preliminary definition of the problem: The adoption of the evolving concept of sustainable development has led social participants to adopt various schemes in relation to product and service labelling and certification. During the last years we have been witnessing a multiplicity of initiatives by NGOs, industry, governments and by partnerships between NGOs and industry. All these initiatives indicate diverse systems with diverse objectives in diverse sectors and diverging approaches and interpretations of sustainable development. The key challenge to the European Union is that all these diverging systems may give rise to trade barriers within the context of the EU’s internal market and within a North-North and a North-South context. This is specially so, since although these schemes are aimed at niche markets, opponents argue that these schemes may gradually become standard setting instruments and that the process of developing such labels is not fully transparent.

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